An unprecedented law enforcement operation involving five countries has resulted in the taking down of one of the most active networks of cargo thieves operating across Europe.

Composed of over 100 members, this organised crime group is believed to have committed over 150 acts of cargo theft and caused losses worth in excess of €10 million. The coordinated actions took place under the umbrella of a joint investigation, code-named ‘ARROW’, coordinated by Europol.  

This latest phase of Operation ARROW resulted in the arrests in Romania of 37 members of this highly professional criminal syndicate. 73 house searches were carried out in the early hours of the morning across the country by the Romanian National Police (Poliția Română) and the French National Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie Nationale) with the support of Europol.

These arrests follow those in other European countries of more members of the same criminal group. 10 suspects were arrested in France earlier this year by the French National Gendarmerie as part of a parallel action, and a further 10 suspects were detained in Spain, six in the Netherlands and five in Sweden, Europol reported. European arrest warrants have been issued for the remaining members at large. 

The arrested individuals, who are originally from Romania, are suspected of carrying out thefts from moving lorries, even as the drivers continued to drive at high speed on motorways, oblivious to the crimes taking place.

“Executing such thefts requires a high degree of sophistication. One car would start to drive slowly in front of the lorry while two other cars held up the other traffic. A fourth car would drive up close behind the lorry. One of the criminals would climb out of the car’s sunroof onto the bonnet and break open the lock on the lorry with an angle grinder. The valuable cargo would then either be transferred to their vehicle, or thrown on the side of the road to be picked up later. The driver of the lorry and other road users were often completely unaware of what was going on,” the Europol statement said.

Involved from the very onset of the investigation in December 2016, Europol brought together the different police forces to help them connect the dots between their own national investigations and provided analytical support before and during the action days. Intelligence gathered during the operation is now being analysed.

Thorsten Neumann, President & CEO of TAPA EMEA, said: “It is very reassuring for all supply chain security stakeholders to see this incredible level of commitment to reducing cargo thefts by Europol and the law enforcement agencies of EU Member States. We congratulate them on this highly successful operation and continue to offer them our full support in their future investigations.”